Two recent publications mark an important stage in the progress of Byzantine musical studies—the facsimile of the Hirmologium at Grottaferrata (Codex G) and the transcription of two Modes from the Athos manuscript (Codex H) of which the facsimile appeared in 1938. These two manuscripts, though their dates are more than a hundred years apart, embody the standard musical tradition of the Hirmologium, whose origin lies in a far remoter antiquity. Otherwise they differ greatly; for, while H is often obscure and inaccurate, we are delighted by the clarity and beauty of G, a manuscript long familiar to scholars and already used (or rather, alas, misused) by Dr. Hugo Riemann before 1909. It is therefore the good fortune of our time that we may now use G to correct or elucidate the text of H.
When we consider the signatures of the Byzantine Modes, it becomes clear that there are two main points for discussion—firstly, the actual meaning of the signature as an indication of the initial note or initial formula of the hymn; and, secondly, the origin and growth of the signature itself and the significance of its component parts.
As it happens, the former of these points has attracted earlier attention; and a practical explanation was reached before 1931. This resulted in a table of signatures, which has been amplified and thoroughly tested, so that it is now supported by the decipherment of at least two thousand hymns, carried out partly by Prof. Egon Wellesz and his collaborators, and partly by myself. Such an inductive procedure was made necessary by the conventional nature of the signatures, few of which bore a self-evident clue to their meaning. But, now that the table of signatures is firmly established, we can read all the eight Modes with equal assurance and can usually evaluate an abnormal signature by the same method.